BROOKSVILLE — Teaching family members how to better understand one another will be the focus of a Sowing Hope in Families conference next week, says organizer Bobbie Cromartie.
Part of Cromartie's "Families Under Construction" series, sponsored by her Sowing Hope Family Retreat and Training Institute Center, the conference will be at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 9 a.m. Feb. 4 at Bethlehem Baptist Church, 661 S Brooksville Ave.
"One of the things I've noticed in working with people, and families especially, is that there is conflict because family members don't really understand each other," Cromartie said. "I need family members to understand that the extroverts in the family act differently than the introverts. We need to appreciate and understand each other."
"Who Am I?" will be the topic for the workshop taught by Cromartie the first night. It will investigate the habits and origins of behaviors and attitudes in parents and children, husbands and wives.
"We wonder why our girls, for example, are making the kinds of poor decisions that they are. It's because of the (negative) messages we as parents give them when they're very young, such as telling them they are stupid," Cromartie said.
Pastor Tyrone Wheeler of Allen Temple A.M.E. Church will teach the workshop "Who Is My Family" on Friday. It will explore the positive and negative inheritances and behaviors from each person's family tree.
"My Role as a Man/Woman or Female and Male Youth" will be taught by Pastor Clarence Clark of Shiloh Baptist Church and Elder Irene Wells, pastor of New Jerusalem Church. Their podium will be shared with Allen Temple church leader Jenna David and Deacon Imani Asukile. The workshop is designed to evaluate appropriate family roles and explore how to live life true to one's self.
Each worship will run about 2½ hours long and include time for discussion. There will be prizes, and refreshments after the Saturday session.
This will be the second year Cromartie has presented the seminar in Hernando County. Previously, she has conducted the conference in St. Petersburg.
"I'm so appreciative that Pastor (C. A.) Hubbert (of Bethlehem Baptist Church) has opened his church to us again this year," Cromartie said. "We had about 100 participants last year. I'm hoping we double that number this year."
The cost for the conference is $5 per person or $10 for a family of up to five members. The registration fee includes lunch on Feb. 4.
An upbeat woman with a ready laugh, Cromartie, 66, is an ordained Baptist minister with a doctorate who prefers not to use the title "reverend."
"I know that only Christ is reverend," she explained.
A native of Florida who grew up in Tallahassee, Cromartie received her master's degree in French at Atlanta University in the 1960s and later received a doctorate in curriculum and supervision at the University of Pittsburgh.
She survived an abusive marriage and reared two daughters, teaching French at the seventh-grade through college graduate levels. She was recruited by the NAACP in 1968 as a teacher in the Harrisburg, Pa., school system and pastored three churches. She has conducted revival services in several states, performed with choirs and as a soloist, and composed and produced two Gospel albums. She has provided training in behavior for schools, churches and social service agencies, and has written three textbooks.
Cromartie originally founded her organization as the Sowing Hope Family Retreat Center in Pittsburgh in 1992; it's now known as the Sowing Hope Family Retreat and Training Institute Center.
Along with Cromartie's training and work history, she says her life experiences have qualified her to teach families how to get along and support each other.
"I have lost cars, homes and jobs," she said. "I have been pushed down a flight of stairs and chased in the streets from my home to a friend's house. I have had to file bankruptcy. I have been physically and emotionally abused, including having a gun pulled on me and knocked unconscious."
She has also been healed twice, she said, including from seizures that accompanied a brain tumor that was diagnosed in 2000.
"Yet, I am a woman who has and lives in hope," she said. " … God has graced me to experience both a spiritual and an educational diversity, for I have been blessed spiritually and trained to be used by him."
Sometimes, she acknowledged, she resisted God's call.
"God had been trying to reveal to me in dreams for about four or five years for me to leave where I was (in Pittsburgh)," she said. "Sometimes you get to the place where everything is going well and you question the Lord about why you have to leave. Then I found out about this tumor."
Cromartie took her sister's advice to leave Pittsburgh, where she'd lived for 32 years, and return to Florida to live near her sister in Spring Hill.
"After I left Pennsylvania and came to Florida, like God had been trying to tell me all that time, everything that I was trying to do in Pennsylvania came to fruition in Florida," she said. "God had revealed the term 'sowing hope' to me, and I thought he meant to start a church called that. That's when I discovered that my ministry was no longer behind the pulpit but rather in the field. Then I had a revelation from God to start the conferences. He gave me this phrase: healer from internal struggling."
Cromartie hopes that those who attend the conference will want to continue with additional training, such as learning how to control anger and build relationships.
"I am eager to share with a nation that is hurting from overt and covert hate issues," she said. "We need God to heal us before it is too late in parent-child, teacher-student, husband-wife and white/black/Asian/Hispanic neighbor-neighbor relationships. The time and need for this kind of work is here."